01 June 2008

Fish Story

Over the last year or so, I have slowly taken up a new hobby: fishing. Rather, I have not so much as taken it up, as I have simply been “hooked” (please note, this was my obligatory joke for the article, I will now go on to telling my story). A fish story is meant to be an exaggerated, implausible and boastful rendering of an event that took place. I imagine that its roots are two-fold: for one, fishermen are often alone, so when they return home to relate their stories, they can take certain creative liberties; and two, fishing is a traumatic experience – and not just for the fish. As my little story will relate, often the story is bigger than the catch, as you strive to remember the events of hauling a dead squirming animals from its natural habitat into your ill equipped hands.

Two weeks ago I went fishing with my buddies Serge, and Kevin, along with Kevin’s nephew. Kevin is pretty much the Mr. Miyagi of my fishing history. I know nothing, and he is always there with helpful equipment and hints. Of course, in my version, I don’t catch any fish with chopsticks, the way Ralph Macchio catches flies. In this instance, we went out fishing on a very cold and rainy May morning. As my vegan girlfriend had given me strict instructions not to harm any fish, I was in a moral quandary. On one hand, I had to display Gandhian compassion for my fellow sentient beings; on the other hand, the testosterone in me was pushing me to snag the biggest fish.

Things started out pretty rough. Miserable in my rubber pants and rainy weather, I set out to cast the first reel into the water. Unfortunately for me, I forgot that I was a bumbling buffoon when it came to operating manual machinery of any kind, including, in this case, a fishing rod. Standing under the Wendover metal bridge, I promptly hooked a HUGE bite: namely, said bridge. There I was rearing to go, and my lure was stuck on the underside of the bridge. Needless to say, I was mocked incessantly for not only my shear flaccidity.

Once I managed to unhook myself, Kevin’s 11 year old nephew had already caught a fish. At least, I surmised, he was just as scared as me when it came time to unhooking the lure and throwing the fish back into the water. It was close, but I wouldn’t be the sissies male there.

After nearly 2 hours of nary a bite, we decided to leave our secluded “under the bridge fishing hole” and head across to the other side. Once there, it was time for lunch. Having brought a yummy Lara bar - whose organic wholesome content seemed at odds with the fishing tradition – I was once again harassed for my awkward approach to fishing. As Kevin would say, we were not out doing yoga. Indeed, no truer words could have been said. It was thus time to hot dogs. As I was starving and everyone knows there is very little meat in hot dogs, I decided to throw my vegetarianism to the wind (or in this case, to the howling downpour of rain). Barbequed hot dogs had long been the staple of hungry men, and I figure, if I was to catch a fish, I would need to start acting like a man (read sarcasm). Alas, in all his brilliance, Kevin had brought the BBQ – or Coleman stove if you will – but had forgotten the matches. Disgruntled, I adopted my best Franco Ontarian accent and attempt to wrestle us some matches from the only other people stupid enough to be fishing in near freezing weather on a holiday Monday. Alas, I should have remembered that we were not on a construction site in Montreal so there were no smokers, or matches to be found. After a vain attempt to light the stove using jumper cables and hair spray – MacGiver would have been proud – we decided to ingest our hot dogs raw. At least I was getting some raw food, for which the vegan in me would be proud – again I rationalized that hot dogs have very little meat to begin with.

With such a hearty meal in us, we decided to get to some more fishing. Fifteen minutes later, when I could no longer feel my hands – did I mention it was like 2 degrees Celsius yet – we decided to head back into town. On our way, we stopped at a creek that looked promising. I was merely happy to see sun. Serge had high hopes of catching some more fish, as his tally to date was a paltry 2 fish. Upon arrival at the creek, I wandered around the corner, while my companions hurried to get their lures into the water. I lazily cast into the water and shortly thereafter felt some resistance. As I am prone to the “boy who called wolf” syndrome, I figured that I had simply caught on the creek bed once again. Upon a second and third tug, I knew that I had something. Perhaps nothing hemingwayesque, but it was something. Reeling for a few seconds, I saw my capture jump from the water. In that second I could not escape the scenes of Jaws and Discover network documentaries from flashing through my mind.

I yelled to my mates who joined me in time to see me reel in a Pike of approximately 6 lbs. in weight. I immediately went into panic mode as my previous thoughts of not harming the fish flashed into my mind. To my horror, there was blood in the water and on my fish. Did fish bleed? My momentary lapse in intelligence could scarcely handle such a question in this time of panic. Luckily, calmer men were around to handle my boyish alarm. Next thing I knew Kevin that pinned the fish below his knee and both he and Serge were busy extricating the hook from the fish’s mouth, who, I later learned, had essentially swallowed the entire thing – thus causing the blood. As Kevin searched in vain for the camera, Serge implored me to handle the fish. I had to “man up.” At that point, I was no longer interested in fishing but merely in ensuring the fish’s survival as well as my own. Had he informed that the fish had 12-inch teeth I would hardly have been surprised. In hindsight, the fish, albeit wiry, had much more to fear than myself. As you will note in the photo below, my limp hands are hardly holding onto the fish, as the unidentified hand (Serge) has a clear grasp on the situation. Luckily the little guy was put back in the water and swam off. Being assured of the fish’s safety, I reverted to proudly celebrating my accomplishments - which was little more than luck - in making the big catch of the day.

I would go on to catch two other small fish, the third of which I snagged while lazily sitting by the creek. Kevin, the usual champion angler, caught nothing. Of course, I also later snagged an “island”, which resulted in the loss of an $8 lure. All in all, he was probably no worse off than me!